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Kathryne Bourgeois :: Review of Gladys Paulus’s 2019 Workshop in Edmonton

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

felt :: feutre canada member, Kathryne Bourgeois recently took renowned fibre artist, Gladys Paulus’s Workshop in Edmonton. We asked her to share that experience with us. Here is what she had to share.

The Background A little background as to why I decided to take this workshop… well, who wouldn’t want to take a workshop with Gladys Paulus? And with the unique opportunity to make animal masks! I’ve wanted to do this workshop for three years and I finally got the chance in the Edmonton.

The minute I saw a reindeer mask, I HAD to do one! It was really important for me for many special reasons. The most important being that the first purpose of Focus Pokatus’s creation was to combine my medical and artistic side and develop a way to use art therapy for children with cancer in palliative care. It was a decision made right after losing both my father and brother to cancer within a year. I visit kids in the hospital and felt for them, but now with a reindeer mask… Rudolph can come through the door!

I can just picture the kids faces when they see this… very special! And worth a million bucks to see those faces. I also do many Christmas exhibits every year and I love making unique wow pieces. My clients love that. And onto of all that, I have been approached by a Quebec film producer that asked me if I would be interested in making some pieces for them…which is quite interesting.

Would you recommend this workshop?

Absolutely!! Gladys Paulus has an amazing talent. She is an excellent teacher. We were given a complete outline for the course. We knew exactly what we had to do and when and this set the pace for the workshop.

When Gladys says this workshop is a lot of work, and a person should have a good experience working with resists… she’s not lying. It’s a must! The felt makers from Edmonton were great. They all had experience. As a class we were able to reach our goals. Everyone was welcoming and so much fun.

There was no need to feel intimidated. Felters are a family and we just fit right in from day one!

This workshop with animal masks is a great way to learn not only how to make your chosen animal, and the techniques for it, but also how to create nine other animals. We also learned from each other. When other people were working on horns, or noses, eyes and other particular traits, we would gather around and learn it along with them. It was fascinating to encourage each other, and learn how we would each go about our animals. Gladys also had with her some examples of different surface design and showed us how to make them which we applied to our animal fur or coats.

Gladys was encouraging, and always had great things to say. She often  pointed out how well we worked. She was very good at gauging the pace so that we were all ready for the next step. Personally, I was always excited and driven in my piece, and by the second day I already knew I wanted to do the Human mask workshop with Gladys. I love the sculptural work. The techniques brought me back to my days at Concordia University.

How did this workshop change your work?

Gladys has a unique technique she uses in order to make our masks fit. She works with ratios. A key theme with her is “dimensionality.” She speaks a lot about proportions, skeletal structures, and how we can accomplish this with our resists. She also encouraged us to consider details like the way the fur will move on the mask. I remember from day one mentioning I was going to make a deer and Gladys let me know right from the start… it was A LOT of work. Luckily the technique was right up my alley!! I have no problem with hard work. Never regretted a second… pure fun! Making masks is hard work.

We did over 60 hours in five days… three solid days of rubbing. Like Gladys says “rub the sh** out of it”… lol, and we did! We made a lot of jokes during that time.

I fell totally in love with mask-making and I know I will be making many, many more… the connection of feeling the felt, sculpting your animal to shape, and bringing it to life is such a special feeling!

What were the workshop highlights?

Easy! Meeting Gladys! But so much more as well… First, the women I met, the atmosphere was amazing, the sight where we felted, making great friendships… definitely going back next year for the symposium. BUT, the most amazing part… just imagine… you draw your animal to make your resist, you shape it, you lay your wool on the first two days. Looks cute flat and you start your connection, then two more days of rubbing almost like a pregnancy…and THEN, your 2D becomes 3D, animals are being born and popping out like a baby… all that hard work is your creation coming to life!

The last day, we fine-tuned the structures and kept reducing to fit our heads. We all lined up outside with our animals and felt proud of what we all accomplished. It’s a great feeling. We were ready to start all over again… just so much fun!

Of course, we went out for supper with Gladys and had our wine and laughed and relaxed…

Did you learn new techniques?

I had never done any hats or sizing for the head. The most important of all is the “Dimensionality.” We heard that word quite often during our five days… so it goes to show, you really have to pay attention to it to get a great mask.

I know that doing this workshop has brought back sculpturing to me on a whole new level. Now it’s much more advanced. This masterclass definitely made an impact on the way I work. I have made many advances in working with resists and calculating the shrinkage. These are important techniques that lead to continuous move forward.

We discussed tools too. I knew many of them already, but I learned about a tiny ridges tool for making some ear folds; a roller; a small pastry tool, which brings the felt together really well and my “whacker.” The is a cheap dollar-store plastic paddle that you can use when you have some folds or smoothing to do. You take it, and smack it against the felt, and it comes out very smooth. It’s the best tool and very inexpensive. It will be everyone’s favorite!

Personally, I feel doing masterclasses like this are a great way to expand one’s knowledge. I just love to soak it all in. I feel like I am on cloud nine still… I am very excited about the future and what more I can access in our amazing art!

Some little funny things… too funny…

When one of the women in the workshop mentioned that she had a habit of laying out her fibre too thinly and that it had a tendency to “be a little saggy”, one of our classmates blurted out how we all knew what sagging does to us… oh, can we do some felting technique to make it shrink!

Thank you, Kathryne Bourgeois. We appreciate you sharing your experience.

To learn more about Kathryne visit here:

For more information about Gladys Paulus visit here:

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